Daily Archives: June 8, 2013

Week 5: Blogs and Learning

What do you see as the role of blogs for learning as integrated in formal learning environments?  What do you see as the role of blogs when self-initiated and informal (i.e., outside bounds of any institution/formal classroom), especially in the context of learning?

I see these two questions being one in the same in that the blog seem to be able to function for both formal and informal in much the same ways.  They can serve to act as the following:

  • a journal of thoughts, ideas, and reflections
  • a mode of exchanging information
  • build connections to others through collaboration
  • removes isolation and encourages socialization
  • reflective environment for consideration of the information

What do you see as the most important aspects to consider in using blogs for learning?

  • establishing protocols for proper use in the classroom
  • teaching how to create a proper post
  • assisting students in understanding how to have a proper discussion with others
  • give a focus for students to consider while writing their blogs
  • teach accountability for their thoughts and actions

My Podcast:  BURRIS – Podcast Interview with Jennifer Wiley

I chose to interview my daughter’s 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Jennifer Wiley.  She has done a good job introducing the class to Web 2.0 this past year.  I appreciate how she started it from day 1 of school so it became part of their rhythm this year as well as established the expectations from the beginning.


Week 5: Blog-casting

Blogging can hold you accountable. It can give you and outlet and allow you to share. But for any teacher that has been in their classroom with their curriculum for more than a few years, blogging can be scary! Much like with the students in the college course described in TechTrends, it can be difficult to put a “grade” on a blog.  This is the other scary part!

Who has control if students are the “experts?” The TechTrends article laid out a great process for blogging where students helped to create the interaction, they kept in contact with the TAs and there were regular meetings to discuss how the blog was working. This structure still allows for the educator to be in control of how the curriculum and discussion is being facilitated but allows the students some ownership too!

I absolutely loved the idea of getting kids excited about blogging by having them do it in the room with the instructor.  This would allow the instructor to really focus in on what is the desired result and showcase the kind of information and format that he/she wanted.  It also gets the students excited about the way information is being shared because their thoughts are getting presented to the class. J

What I’ve found from the readings is this. For a blog to be successful, the educator must:
1) …set up strategies.
2) …give strong examples.
3) …foster extended conversations through heavy teacher engagement early-on.

Mr. Borges’ had his class of Special Education students’ blog together. This is a formal class situation. Whereas, after reading the students that were studying abroad in Spain, you could see their opened ended creations. Student’s blogs have little structure. They are open and without linear thought.  The student blogs can be put together in topic form or by unit, as they are on Mr. Borges’ page.

Blogs have a place in the educational setting.  Whether it is sharing of resources and information from Ferlazzo’s blog or the student abroad in Spain, we can find educational value in the experiences of others. Although simple, students worried about traveling to another country can find simplicity in the blog of Moniek on her travels. I, personally, was so impressed with Ferlazzo that I explored more of his page to see how he handles a “bad day” in his classroom.  Blogs play a role in education and deserve a place in our world – but they must be educational, structured and exemplified by the people contributing to them.

blackhurstc_psu (Interview with Beth Wilmus – Foreign Language Teacher)

Week 5 Blogs and Learning (RT)

According to Rebecca Blood (2002), blogs may be classified as journals, notebooks or filters.

  • journals – record daily life 
  • notebooks – write ideas / thoughts focusing on both personal life and the outside world
  • filters – comment on interesting news

This Web 2.0 tool has application in the educational setting. As Hsu et al (2009) indicated,  researchers are exploring “the potential cognitive and metacognitive effects of incorporating blogs in teaching and learning activities that engage and facilitate meaningful learning.”

When blogging is introduced as a metacognitive activity, my first reaction is – not enjoyable, at least for me. Presented that way to someone who is new to blogging, it becomes a chore and a reminder that I need to polish up on my writing skills. Thanks to the learning design for this course and the resources provided, that baggage is slowly being removed.

I looked at a teacher blog of student’s work: Sheridan School Showcase (http://shershowcase.edublogs.org/) and immediately experience blogging in an educational setting as enjoyable. (I believe I felt that way because I am beginning to enjoy the experience of blogging in this course.) It thought it remarkable that elementary school children are exploring Web 2.0 tools such as Animoto, VoiceThread, etc. – kudos to their teacher(s). This must be such a powerful experience for the children when their work is showcased with affirmative comments from their teacher.

In reflection, I think the soft structure put in place for our course blog has enabled me to enter into blogging and experience, as so many in the class have said, the power of this Web 2.0 tool. I cannot help but compare this experience with that of the discussion forum tool in Blackboard. The organization of content in a blog platform is much easier to read (less fragmented) and I feel it also affects how I write (more fully). I spend more time (than I would for a DF) considering what I will write, scribble the key words or phrases on paper and organize my writing, edit and post into the class blog. Now I can see why my boss who is an avid blogger often thumbs down when I thumbs up on the use of DF. I believe there is still a place for DF where writing is less intense.

In Will Richardson’s blog, he filters and writes comments on things that are happening in education. In his response to Michelle Rhee-Weise’s perception on PD for teachers, he offers another perspective on PD. So, about the characteristics of student and teacher blogs, it seems to me that student blog tends to tell the world about themselves and teacher blogs tend to invite a response to their topics / thoughts (it seems).
Blood, R. (2002). What is a weblog. In R. Blood (Ed.) The Weblog Handbook: Practical advice on creating and maintaining your blog (pp. 1-25). Cambridge, MA: Perseus

P/S I am still editing my podcast to take it down from 35 min. to 15 or less……

Formal and Informal Education Blogs

A blog about blogs: how terribly meta.

The readings this week really interested me because I’ve always thought about blogging as a viable outlet for me, both privately and professionally.  Sometimes it seems like every librarian in the world has a blog these days.  I’ve been held up by the thought that it would probably be more likely to get me in trouble than to help me.  I have a tendency to be honest to a fault, and some principals are not huge fans of people who are willing to disagree with them.  The result is that I have so far avoided blogging, but that fact is a disappointment to me.  It’s something that I could easily see changing at some point.  I just have to rewire how I think a bit.  Reading the teacher and educator blogs this week reminded me that people can dissent against the dominant power structure, and it isn’t always a dangerous thing.  That’s sometimes a little hard for me to realize because of my work and life background.  I grew up in a very conservative and religious Southern town where popularity was decided by which church you attended.  Speaking out against the norm could get you into real trouble.  Most people I know would consider me to be very outspoken, and it would probably shock them that I even worry about the impact of what I could say.  Informal blogs about education issues and classroom experiences are pretty common now, and so maybe that has shifted things a little more in our favor, freedom of speech wise, but Ferlazzo’s post including the teacher who got in trouble for her blog post hit home with me because I once was called in by an assistant principal because she heard some other teachers discussing something in the teachers’ lounge that I had posted on my private Facebook.  In a work environment that relies so much on hearsay, it is unsurprising that I might worry about how my personal, informal blog might hurt my job chances.

Taking the other option for educational blogging and considering classroom use of blogs by students, I worry about district privacy policies and other such bureaucratic annoyances, but I definitely see the value of using blogs with students.  “The Community of Voices” article as well as the posts from Mr. Borges’ “Blog Squad” and the study abroad posts really show how student learning can be showcased and critical thinking can be encouraged through blogging.  “Blogging affords students the valuable opportunity to create and recreate their own educational experience. As part of a collective learning environment, community blogs encourage students to extend themselves into the information universe in search of new ideas that may alter the trajectory of the course” (Bartholomew, Jones, & Glassman, 2012, p. 19).  By allowing students to lead discussions that are flexible enough to gather their own momentum, educators can use those discussions as a balance to the planned curriculum.  Depending on how integrated the blog experience is with the classroom environment, there could be either two parallel learning options that double the amount of content covered in the course, or there could be one large on-going circuit of learning that is taking place both laterally and vertically within the same context.  It is important to plan well beforehand what requirements are there for the student blogging community and to make sure that those requirements stay consistent and easy to understand.  Blogging can be intimidating to people who feel like they don’t have anything to add to the discussion, but by pacing our students and giving them many different options we can encourage them to engage with new technologies in smart and meaningful ways.

Week 5 post – Blogging and podcasting

  • What do you see as the role of blogs for learning as integrated in formal learning environments?

Blogs can be a multi-use tool and can achieve both collaboration and reflection goals set forth by the instructor. with so much opportunity it is critical that the goals for incorporating this technology are thoughtful and intentional. Just plopping a blog into a course and expecting students to engage with it (not to mention understand its benefits) could be far fetched. Bartholomew talks in his article about the “five major factors for successful course blogging” including integration, technology roles, best practices, socialization and collaboration, and continual development. What I get from this is that a course blog is like a living organism and thought should be put in from the start until sometimes beyond the timeframe of the course.
I liked that the article addressed so many of the concerns that folks have when thinking about possibly integrating blogs into their classes. Blogs can, to some extent, force you to give up a little control over the conversation happening “during class”. The anonymity can provide just enough cover for folks to really let loose verbally. It was really reassuring to hear that students respected each other when commenting. Grading was another major concern, as was keeping up with the flow of posts and comments. Along with the tips outlined in this article, my interviewee Bart Pursel shared with me the rubric he uses for his students blogs and I’m sharing it here.

  • What do you see as the role of blogs when self-initiated and informal (i.e., outside bounds of any insitution/formal classroom), especially in the context of learning?

When people keep blogs that describe and inform others on how they teach and the tools that they’ve used both with and without success, it helps the rest of us become better teachers through learning.  It also acts as an incredible support system for those “lone rangers” experimenting with technology for the first time. I have found that no matter what question I’m having or challenge I’m facing, there is someone else out there that has had the same problem. More often than not they’ve even written an entire blog post about it.

  • What do you see as the most important aspects to consider in using blogs for learning?

Blogs, like any web-based information source should be looked at with a critical eye and discerning mind. Unlike major information news sources, blogs are typically written by an individual and can swing from mildly subjective to wildly one-sided. For us as educators, it’s important to keep this in mind when using blogs as a learning tool for ourselves.
When using blogs as a teaching tool there are many things that are important to consider. There are so many benefits associated with keeping a blog for class, but it is up to us to make those apparent and relevant to the student. It can easily become overwhelming in large classes to make sense of individual blogs, so picking one or two behaviors to encourage through blogging is a smart place to start. That was one bit of advice I got from the person I interviewed this week, Bart Pursel, on the use of blogs in the classroom. The rest can be found in the interview itself which is linked below. Enjoy!


bart interview

Blogs and learning

What do I see as the role of blogs for learning as integrated in formal learning environments?

Reading Katherine Schulten’s article about microblogging almost brought me to tears. One of the teachers, Erin Olsen, shared a reflection from one of her students, saying “that the class had given her voice.” Our voice is paramount in creating who we are, and it is one of the primary purposes of blogs for learning. Think about the impact on a student’s learning when s/he knows that their work will be posted on edublogs just like in Mr. Borges’ class. I like the quote that goes, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself” (unknown). These students have an opportunity to create who they are via blogs. Blogs also serve to enrich discussion and create a text trail for in-class conversation, exemplified by the “circle in a circle” lesson used by Erin in her classrooms. I’ve been trying to convince my colleagues to incorporate this style of learning in their classrooms, and I now have a clear conception of how to use Web 2.0 tools to make this happen.

What do I see as the role of blogs when self-initiated and informal (i.e., outside bounds of any insitution/formal classroom), especially in the context of learning?

Call me dorky, but I used to competitively play Magic: The Gathering. By competitive, I mean I read all the related articles, playtested for hours, and traveled to every major event in PA, MD, NJ, and NY – as a middle schooler. My desire to compete was self initiated and did not involve my school work at all. Though not exactly blogging, I would say that self-starting bloggers probably experience the same sense of drive and excitement that I did while cardflopping in tournaments. To further my point, the acute learning that took place was richer and more invigorating than the kind taking place in the classroom. On my own volition, I scoured every website that had an article about the metagame, which is the competitive environment and how to successfully play in it. Not all articles were quality. Similar to blogging when someone posts their ideas and supports them using links to other Internet resources, for example, I critically evaluated the relevance of the information from the gaming websites. Stephen Downes’ blog models this level of screening in his blog when citing articles from The Washington Post and The Guardian when providing background information on his post involving cloud-based services and privacy of information. In total, when internally motivated about a personally meaningful topic, learning is instantaneous and exhilarating. So are the rewards of winning that event, or in the case of the blogger, receiving that coveted feedback.

What do I see as the most important aspects to consider in using blogs for learning?

When posed with the idea of using Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms, my colleagues, who are weary of letting go of the reigns of didactic instruction, guardedly ask, “How will I maintain control and ensure that students are on task?” One of the most important aspects to consider in using blogs for learning is their proper usage. Setting clear expectations and modeling appropriate use are essential to their success in engaging students in on-task learning. Talk about the idea of a “digital footprint” and the realities of public posting on the Internet. Be present on the boards or blogs or Twitter hashtags, maintaining a presence as a way to monitor student conduct. Require students to include their names (or alias) in their posts – no anonymous posting to hold students accountable, as well as the positive side of creating a sense of ownership.

What better way to wrap up than with a podcast interview with my colleague, Pat K., who teaches students Spanish and currently pilots the social media service, My Big Campus.

Week 5: Blogs and Learning

Week 5: Blogs and Learning
Blogs provide benefits for the students as well as teachers when incorporated into formal learning environments. Through student blogs, teachers can easily tap into the understanding and learning level of individual students. In my opinion, leaving a comment on a student blog is much more efficient than students passing in papers to be graded then later returned to the students for a reflection. Blogs not only allow teachers to easily communicate feedback to students, but provide students with an opportunity to respond to their teacher. Students can gather information and knowledge from while interacting with their peers.

I created a personal blog, without any real focus and without any idea of an audience, about a year ago. This informal, personal blog was simply a way for me to reflect on lessons in my classroom, gardening experiences, and my progress in training for a half-marathon: all things that I find to be of interest. In creating blogs weekly or monthly, I am able to reflect upon my teaching and the things I learn after finishing a lesson or unit. It is also a wonderful way to collect thoughts, resources, and reflections about my life, both professional and personal.

As for professional blogs from which I have found excellent information for my classroom, here are a few:
Zombie Math Teacher
Middle School Math Rules
Math = Love
{One not so professional blog, but certainly a necessity for all teachers to be aware of is heygirlteacher} 🙂

I interviewed a fellow teacher at the middle school where I work in North Carolina: http://eimpagliatelli.podomatic.com/entry/2013-06-04T07_36_40-07_00